The winning record of some of the most successful winter Paralympians could be challenged at Beijing 2022 as the next generation of alpine skiers try to make their own history.
The recent World Championships in Lillehammer, Norway, as well as the conclusion of the World Cup season, delivered some fascinating storylines of athletes on the rise.
Gathering together 220 athletes competing in men’s and women’s sitting, standing and vision impaired, Para Alpine Skiing at Beijing 2022 will get underway on 5 March.
A tantalising rivalry has emerged in the women’s standing between France’s eight-time Paralympic champion Marie Bochet and relative newcomer, Sweden’s Ebba Aarsjoe.
France's Marie Bochet has 30 major international medals to her name. Ⓒ Luc Percival
At January’s World Championships, Bochet returned to the slopes as the defending title-holder from all five technical and speed disciplines. The French legend grabbed gold in the downhill and giant slalom to bring her total major medal count to 30.
Sweden's Ebba Aarsjoe has shown herself to be a contender against Bochet. Ⓒ Luc Percival
But Aarsjoe thrust herself into the mix with a stunning win in the slalom.
Also hoping to challenge the field and grab China’s first Paralympic alpine skiing medal is Zhang Menqiu. In 2020, Zhang won China’s first ever World Cup gold, outracing Bochet, in the giant slalom.
Expect the slopes of the Yangqing National Alpine Skiing Centre to light-up in the wake of this competition in particular.
The men’s standing will feature one of New Zealand’s biggest medal hopes in the form of Adam Hall. Favouring the slalom, Hall won gold at the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games and silver at Lillehammer 2021.
Adam Hall will fly the flag for New Zealand as one of their brightest medal hopes. Ⓒ Getty Images
France’s Arthur Bauchet is another a face to watch as the new world champion in the slalom and super-combined. Austria’s super-G and downhill world-title holder Markus Salcher can also not be discounted after regaining his downhill crown to become a triple world champion in the event.
In the sitting category, skiers are known for producing some of the most daring performances in alpine skiing and Beijing 2022 will be no different.
In the men’s, Norway’s Jesper Pedersen struck a rich vein of metal at Lillehammer 2021 that included three golds and two silvers. As well as his giant slalom gold and super-combined bronze from the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games, Pedersen looks in good shape to add more podiums to his collection in Beijing.
Jesper Pedersen was in great form heading into Beijing 2022. Ⓒ Luc Percival
Germany’s defending Paralympic slalom and super-combined champion Anna-Lena Forster has been unstoppable in the women’s this season, only dropping one gold in Lillehammer after a crash in the giant slalom. Her World Cup performance has also been exceptional, sealing the overall crystal globe in the women’s sitting.
Competition in the women’s vision impairment field is expected to be high as skiers clamber for top spot.
While Slovakia’s nine-time Paralympic and world champion Henrieta Farkasova keeps adding to her status as one of the category’s best athletes of all time, others are keen to dethrone her.
The Slovakian raced to gold in both the downhill and super-G in Lillehammer, as she did in all other disciplines except for slalom at PyeongChang 2018.
But British teammates Millie Knight, guided by Brett Wild, and Menna Fitzpatrick with guide Katie Guest, kept Farkasova honest with wins in the super-combined and slalom, respectively.
In the giant slalom, Austrian 16-year-old Barbara Aigner skied to victory with guide Klara Sykora in Lillehammer.
Teenager Barbara Aigner is one of the front-runners in the women's vision impaired. Ⓒ Luc Percival
Hyacinthe Deleplace left Lillehammer as the most decorated male skier in the men’s vision impairment category, securing golds in the super-G, super-combined and downhill with guide Maxime Jourdan.
Deleplace swapped the athletics track for the slopes after competing at the London 2012 Paralympics and being inspired by Para Alpine Skiing at Sochi 2014.
Not to be outdone, Italian fans can rely on the silky skiing of Giacomo Bertagnolli, guided by Andrea Ravelli. Bertagnolli is the reigning Paralympic champion in the giant slalom and slalom who added another gold in the latter in Lillehammer.
Hyancinthe Deleplace enters Beijing 2022 as a triple world champion. Ⓒ Carloni Raspar / SportXall
Para Alpine Skiing gets underway with the downhill on 5 March.
The complete schedule and results from Beijing 2022 are available on Paralympic.org.